We were SO looking forward to this cruise, but sadly it just wasn't up to par for us. We are a family with two teens and our previous experiences with RCI have been fantastic, so we felt confident choosing this cruise.
The staff for the most part are fantastic, friendly, attentive and we loved to hear about their families and life at sea. I honestly don't know how they do it, away from their children and partners for months on end, I really admire them. Even the staff doing the cleaning were lovely, always with a friendly smile and wave for us. We couldn't fault any of them.
We found the food lovely, both in the dining room and Windjammer. Getting a table in Windjammer was always a bit of a bun fight (why do couples insist on sitting at tables for eight???), but again the staff were very organised and professional, quickly finding you a table as hastily as they could.
On the downside, in a nutshell there's just too many days at sea and not enough to do. The ship isn't that big and with many older, retired people on board, we found they "propped" for the day in every lounge available, leaving nowhere for us to go. Thankfully, we had interconnecting balcony rooms, one of them on the edge of the hump which provided enough room on the balcony for all of us. We hadn't planned on spending so much time in our rooms, but there was often nowhere else to go and nothing else to do! Don't even think about trying to get anywhere near the pools, again, people "prop" and you can't get a seat. Didn't really matter, I guess, the pool was absolutely tiny.
We had expected as newly crowned Platinum members we would get a few little benefits, but all we got was more of the sell, sell, sell, but at slightly higher discounted prices. Oh, and free champagne and a talk from the captain in a short and sweet member's only function which again was full of retirees.
Smoke coming inside the ship was a huge issue. Smoking is permitted on Deck 11 (pool) and 12 (above the pool on one side). Problem was, if you happened to be on the other side of the ship, especially on deck 11, you would get choked by the smoke as it swirled around. This proved a particular problem for me as I'm a chronic asthmatic. I don't deny smokers their right to smoke, I just wish it wasn't so close to areas where everyone, smokers or not, wanted to spend their time and the pool deck is one of the most patronised areas on a ship, right? Smoking is also allowed on Deck 5, but as with Deck 11, smoking is allowed directly at the automatic doors, so the wind would bring smoke inside, including into the Windjammer, Park Cafe (Solarium) and down the main stair way throughout the Centrum. It made life pretty uncomfortable for me on quite a few occasions, I went through two inhalers in three weeks which is unheard of usually. Smoking needs to be kept away from the main doors and away from enclosed areas, this would prevent it getting inside into the main areas of the ship and into eating areas, it's common sense.
Catering to an older crowd, the activities really weren't of much interest to us (we're not that into talks about sea-horses or learning how to play bridge) and everything seemed to just stop at around 10.30 because everyone went to bed, though this did improve towards the end of the cruise mainly because we'd found a few other families who were feeling as lost at sea as we were (pun intended). Everything from trivia to music to many of the stage shows seemed to be mostly geared towards people 30 years older than us, though there were a couple of fun nights, 70's, 80's etc., but these were held in the Centrum which is just too small for the amount of people that want to participate. There was a fantastic comedian early in the cruise, he was a highlight for us, but most of the stage shows again were for the older crowd.
Now to the kids club (teens). This was one area which was seriously lacking. We paid full fare for our children, yet they were treated almost as second class citizens. No drinks or food allowed in the teen area (there's a bar in there but not being used, unlike previous cruises), lack of organised activities, understaffed and little effort seemed to have been put into engaging the kids. In fact, the staff seemed more intent on calling security for every minor incident (like cups left in the teen area - illegal drinking of soft drinks!). The kids ended up spending much of their time with us, bored to tears.
In closing, I would say if you are a family, think carefully about this trip. A shorter cruise particularly during school holidays would probably be more fun for the whole family. This cruise, with 12 sea days, was a bit much, so think carefully before parting with big $$$. By the end of this cruise, having hooked up with the few other families on board and making our own fun, everyone was saying, "GET ME OFF THIS BOAT!". It was just too long with too few ports, and it seems we weren't the only ones to be feeling this way.
Oh, and yes, I have written to RCI, two weeks and still no response which hasn't helped the slightly bad taste left in our mouths.
While we loved seeing the dolphins, we had such a short time (less than 15 mins in the water in a group of approx 10) with them we were left feeling a little deflated. For the money, I would take up an excursion offered at the pier with a private vendor.View All undefined undefined Reviews
This was a fantastic experience, the snorkelling is out of this world and if sharks and stingrays are your thing, you'll enjoy it. The tour guides were great, Joe was fantastic, friendly, funny and informative. Just watch the coral! My son badly grazed his knee and it became infected, so be careful.View All 47 Shark & Stingray Encounter Reviews
The walk into town was quite refreshing after being cooped up for so long on board. And finally, we had our first decent coffee in a month down at the waterfront restaurants. I love New Zealand, have visited many times, but Wellington is just another (small) city, so not much to say really.